The Importance of Food

Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” As an herbalist, there are so many cases where herbs are not even necessary; where the condition can be resolved solely by improving diet. If you consider what we Americans feed our pets, it’s usually along the caliber of fast food… and how could that not lead to illness?

It was around the 1940s/1950s that processed, dry dog food was made popular by food companies like General Mills and Nabisco. It was the age of convenience (remember TV dinners?) and these food companies had a lot of waste and by-product that could be turned into profit. In order to increase the protein ratio so as to meet the nutritional requirement of a canine diet, grains like corn were added. But dogs don’t benefit by corn. The protein and amino acid requirements of dogs are from meat – not corn or rice or sorghum. These serve merely as the cheapest possible way for these food corporations to raise the protein level to appear to meet dogs’ nutritional needs.

A wild canid (or any dog scavenging for food) will take down prey and consume pretty much the entire animal. The enzymes required to digest the meal are contained in the meat itself. Unfortunately, enzymes are destroyed at temps of 117/118 degrees or higher (as are vitamins, minerals, and amino acids), so meat that has been baked in dog food is pretty much devoid of the enzymes to properly assimilate the nutrients from it . What happens then is that the stomach signals to the brain to send some enzymes. The brain, in turn, recruits metabolic enzymes (which are busy elsewhere in the body doing things like fighting inflammation) and sends them to the stomach to help break down food. Is it any wonder that we are seeing more and more food sensitivities and chronic illness in dogs?

If you feed a dry kibble, look for a food that uses at least two real meat sources in the first several ingredients. If the ingredient panel includes corn, step away from the bag. If you feed a quality dry food, you can improve the bioavailability of the food by adding digestive enzymes – an enzyme supplement that includes vitamins and minerals is even better. Of course, you can avoid having to add vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc. by feeding raw food, where they were never destroyed in the first place!

Dogs are mammals, just like we are. Like us, the foundation of their health lies in supplying the proper nutrients required to nourish their cells and keep the organ systems and immune system functioning properly. Why spend your money on vet (or herbalist!) bills when you can nourish your dog with real food?



Filed under musings

2 responses to “The Importance of Food

  1. prestigeproducts

    Hi Nancy!

    Great site! Can you recommend which Raw Food if best for my mini schnauzer? He’s 7, has a little arthritis and dry skin. Thanks! -Amy.

    • Hi, Amy! It’s hard to say which raw food is best. Honestly, any raw food is better than dry kibble. The pre-made raw is definitely the most expensive way to feed raw, but most people want the convenience, rather than mixing everything themselves. I have made my dogs’ food for over 10 years, and it does get really easy, once you get the routine down. I use the diet described in Wendy Volhard’s Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, but others feed a BARF diet based on Dr. Ian Billinghurst’s Give Your Dog a Bone. If you make it yourself, you do need to consider calcium:phosphorus ratios and other nutritional balancing… which is why lots of people prefer to just spend the money on a pre-made frozen raw food. Incidentally, The Whole Dog Journal is reviewing frozen foods in their next issue.

      If you have a local independent pet food shop, stop in and see what they carry. Bravo! is probably the cheapest of the raw foods, and Primal is probably the most expensive (but it’s organic and contains free-range or grass-fed meats). If you choose Bravo, go with Bravo Balance. Bravo Blends do require a vitamin & mineral supplement, and essential fatty acids like fish oil.

      Which brings me to the arthritis. Adding a fish oil to the food is very good for the joints, so I would absolutely recommend that. Trying a supplement like glucosamine or cetyl myristoleate is also a good option. I really like Nupro Joint Support, which is a supplement containing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, probiotics, and EFAs – along with glucosamine, MSM, and vitamin C in the form of ester-C.

      Good luck, and let me know how you make out!

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